Threatened closure of Ardmore Studios comes as no surprise

Although it is going to send a shockwave across the film industry it will not come as a surprise to most people involved in film. Ardmore is not stranger to closures and uncertainty it has gone through a succession of owners down through the years, before Ossie Kilkenny and Paul McGuinness took it over in the late 80’s giving its longest period of stability.

Since Starz pulled the plug on the second series of Camelot the sound stages at Ardmore have remained dormant for almost 15 months, while the loss of Camelot was a huge blow for Ardmore, the studios has been in decline since 2005 something that has been somewhat masked by the success of The Tudors which booked the studios for 4and a half years.

The studios built in 1958 Ardmore has become totally outdated for today’s rapidly changing industry. In my 20 years working in and out of the studios no major investment was made to the studios themselves. The last major studio based production I worked on at Ardmore was in 2004 on the $40million movie The Honeymooners (picture). Following The Honeymooners one of Paramount’s top producers told me that while Paramount were really impressed with the film crews and the standard of work it was less than impressed with the studios and Paramount have not been back since. Most of the other major Hollywood companies such as Disney, 2oth Century Fox, DreamWorks have not produced anything in the sound stages at Ardmore since the mid 00’s.

Those within the industry will have known with the arrival of the Ballyhenry Studios at Ashford the writing was on the wall for Ardmore. With a deal almost finalised with a major US television company to broadcast the 12 part series ‘The Vikings’ taking the production to Ballyhenry made perfect sense. With its 3 studio modern studios the largest of which is 28,400sq ft, with the other two measuring 13,500 sq each it is better equipped to meet larger studios for studio builds and green screen facilities. Ardmore largest sound stage is 12,000 sq ft and never was properly sound proofed.

In recent years Ardmore had applied politician pressure to prevent Ballyhenry Studios getting planning permission rather than upgrading its facilities to meet today’s filming requirement. With the Government having a 25% stake in Ardmore it will be interesting to see how the address this latest threat by McGuiness and Kilkenny.

Ardmore has outlived its usefulness at the main studio space to serve the industry, but it can still provide facilities for smaller television production provided it can invest money in the sound stages and is more proactive in marketing its facilities.

© Tom Dowling

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Ardmore Studios facing final curtain

CIARÁN HANCOCK, Business Affairs Correspondent Irish Times 10th March 2012

IT COULD soon be a case of lights, camera but no action at Ardmore Studios in Co Wicklow, which is facing closure after missing out on the contract for a major US television series.

Ardmore’s majority shareholders, U2 manager Paul McGuinness and accountant Ossie Kilkenny, are seeking about €500,000 to cover care and maintenance costs at the studio in Bray while it searches for new productions. They are believed to have sought funding recently from the Irish Film Board.

Ardmore’s owners plan to close the studio in the coming weeks if they cannot secure the necessary finance. It would then be sold off.

The studio employs about 20 full-time staff but this figure increases when productions are in full swing.

Ardmore’s financial difficulties came to a head recently after it lost out to neighbouring Ballyhenry Studios in Ashford, Co Wicklow, on a contract for the Vikings series, a $40 million-plus big-ticket production by Morgan O’Sullivan for MGM. It is understood that this could have been worth more than €1 million to Ardmore.

Securing the Vikings series is a major coup for Ashford, a new state-of-the-art studio owned by Joe O’Connell. It has larger stages that are considered more suitable for modern productions

Opened in 1958, Ardmore has played an integral part in the development of the Irish film industry over the decades, with more than 100 feature films produced there. Its productions include Excalibur and Braveheart .

However, the studio has suffered from the cyclical nature of the film sector and at the end of 2010, it had accumulated total losses of €338,192.

Ardmore was used in the making of the hit TV series the Tudors between 2006 and 2010 and was also involved in Camelot , another major TV production for the US market.

 CIARÁN HANCOCK, Business Affairs Correspondent Irish Times 10th March 2012

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